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Research reveals how to make customers happy

Customers in the UK are happier than they were a year ago but their focus has changed and issues such as competence and staff behaviour have become more important.

The latest research from The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) shows that staff attitude is much more important to customers now than it was five years ago.

Based on the views of 10,000 UK consumers, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) reveals the first significant boost in customer satisfaction since 2012 - rising by 0.8 points to 77 (out of 100) but still some way off the 2013 peak of 78.2.

The survey also reveals that John Lewis has slipped out of the top three organisations and is now in the number six spot for customer satisfaction. The top three businesses are Amazon, Utility Warehouse and First Direct - all businesses where consumers don't have face-to-face contact with staff.

And yet "competence of staff" is considered the most important element for customers in 2015 after being ranked only 11th in 2010. Staff "doing what they say they will do" and competence on the phone are the next most important priorities for customers. Helpfulness of staff (in person) rose from 21st to fourth in the rankings while friendliness of staff and ease of doing business are also rising on the index of customer priorities.

Jo Causon, ceo of The Institute of Customer Service, said: "Core ingredients of excellent customer service - employee competence, attitudes and behaviour - have become even more significant differentiators. Mass marketing or a one-size-fits-all customer experience is delivering diminishing returns and diluting valuable customer relationships."

Interestingly, the research also shows that customers using more than two channels to communicate with organisations are more likely to be unhappy with the service they receive.

Causon said: "While the multi-channel environment demanded by customers has the potential to offer a faster more flexible service, it can also exacerbate problems if not done correctly. Challenger brands, often unencumbered by legacy systems and processes are gaining on their larger competitors by offering straightforward, personal, seamless and quick service experience.

"This is reshaping the competitive environment around customer service and removing barriers to entry to create a real opportunity for smaller organisations to succeed against larger rivals."

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